It is safe to say that former captain Kevin Nolan’s departure from West Ham at the start of the season was not one that was greeted with tears and sadness by most fans – but his parting gift may turn out to be one that leaves Irons fans owing him a major debt of thanks, because he may just have played a significant role in helping develop one of the next big names in claret and blue – Martin Samuelsen.
The 18-year-old Norwegian youth international joined the Irons this summer aft er leaving Manchester City at the end of last season, and in an exclusive interview with Blowing Bubbles at the photocall organised by the club’s official outfitters Apsley Tailors, he revealed that the former Bolton and Newcastle midfielder had taken time out to help him on his arrival at his new club.
‘I always try to get as much input on my game as I can, and obviously the senior players with their experience can teach me a lot,’ he said. ‘Th e one who taught me the most before he left was Kevin Nolan – since he’s gone, I’ve spoken a lot with Dmitri Payet. I’m not trying to copy what he does but I’m trying to put some of it into my game.’ A quick trip to YouTube to look at Samuelsen’s recent stunning goal for the West Ham U21s at Blackburn would suggest that a bit of Payet’s stardust has indeed fallen onto the youngster’s boots, but those who have been following his career for a while would not be surprised at this development.
Born in April 1997, he grew up as Manchester United fan – ‘because of [fellow Norwegian] Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’ – the versatile attacking midfielder caught the eye of Chelsea and Real Madrid before opting to join Manchester City in 2012, the year City won their first Premier League title under Roberto Mancini.
The future may have looked bright for the Sky Blues, but unfortunately for Samuelsen, his days at the Etihad were slightly less sunny, and now he is looking for a fresh start at the Boleyn. ‘Aft er three and a half years of ups and downs – mainly downs – at City, I really needed a big change,’ he revealed. ‘I didn’t really know that much about West Ham – I knew it was a big club in East London, with a lot of tradition, and hardcore fans – is that the right word? – but that was JULIAN SHEA @juliansheasport Hero: Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was Samuelsen’s idol growing up Bright: Martin Samuelsen enjoyed a positive pre-season with West Ham about it. ‘I was lucky to meet [Academy chief] Terry Westley at West Ham – he was the one I dealt with most when I was on trial, and then again in the later stage of discussions, and after that, joining was an easy decision to make.
‘He told me about how West Ham work individually with different players to focus on their individual needs, and once I realised that there was a new manager, there would be other new players and there was a new stadium to go to, I couldn’t really say no.
Samuelsen is one of a raft of new players to have arrived under Slaven Bilic, and he says that – as well as the welcome he received from senior players such as Kevin Nolan – has made the bedding-in process a more comfortable one. ‘Dmitri [Payet]’s one of the other new arrivals too, so maybe that’s helped a bit – there’s quite a few of us in the same boat, so I’m not on my own,’ he revealed
With Bilic also now more at home at the club, the team are definitely starting to bear the manager’s personal stamp, but that new look has only come about after he shuffled his cards in the Europa League campaign, not deciding on his preferred line-up until everyone had been given a chance to prove their worth. That meant that despite still awaiting his blooding in the Premier League Samuelsen has already had a taste of first-team action, with two appearances in European competition.
‘I’m surprised to get a first team chance so quickly – I didn’t expect it when I first arrived – but it’s certainly been a very nice surprise, and obviously I hope I get another chance in the first team soon,’ he said. However, if his opportunity for regular first team football should be in the colours of another team, then that suits Samuelsen just fine as well. ‘I didn’t say I wasn’t interested in going out on loan, what I said was that all the signals I’ve been given are that the club want me to stay here, but if they want to me to go out somewhere else, I’d be happy to go – I’ll do whatever the club wants,’ he said.
The move from City to West Ham is an interesting one to make, considering how City’s status as the nearly men of northwest football has been utterly transformed since their move from Maine Road to the Etihad, and the resultant transformation of both the club’s fortune and its fortunes. But having been caught up in that scenario at City, and not reaped any personal benefits from it, Samuelsen says he does not see too many comparisons between the two clubs. ‘I think there will be big positive changes at West Ham , and the team will climb the table, which is great, but I don’t think there’s going to be as much money
But having been caught up in that scenario at City, and not reaped any personal benefits from it, Samuelsen says he does not see too many comparisons between the two clubs. ‘I think there will be big positive changes at West Ham , and the team will climb the table, which is great, but I don’t think there’s going to be as much money being pumped in here as there was at City – and I think that’s a good thing,’ he added
Bearing in mind his previous experience, he could be forgiven for having enjoyed West Ham’s recent famous victory over his former side just that little bit more than many other players at the club. ‘I didn’t really think about it that way, I was just glad that we won against City – maybe I was a little bit extra happy as it was my old side, but I suppose that’s the same for any player against their old team,’ said Samuelsen.
After some crushing defeats at the hands of City in recent years, that 2-1 win was particularly enjoyable for all West Ham fans – but if Samuelsen goes on to fulfill the potential and promise he has shown thus far in his short career, the result could be West Ham 1 Manchester City 0 for many years to come. So remember the player who supplied the vital assist. None other than Kevin Nolan.